By Zack Kirby, Chattanooga, Tenn., —After two weeks on the road, the men’s basketball team (18-9, 11-3 in the SoCon) defeated Samford 79-72 behind the 21 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three blocks from junior Casey Jones, New Orleans, La.
Much of the reason Jones was able to be a threat from all areas of the court was because of junior Eric Robertson, Huntsville, Ala., who nailed five three pointers and finished with 21 points.
“When he’s [Robertson] hot out there, even though it’s not him taking shots, the opposing team feels like it’s the whole team hot,” Jones said. “When someone takes a shot, they’re watching the shot to see if it’s going in, so you can sneak up there and get some offensive rebounds. It helps us out like that. Obviously you have to guard him. If I’m driving the ball and Eric is on the same side in the corner, you have to guard him.”
Sophomore and 6-foot-10 inch center Justin Tuoyo, Fayetteville, Ga., was able to impose his will inside the paint as he finished with a double-double of 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, which makes him eight shy of the school record set last year by graduate Z. Mason, Nashville.
“He’s a presence for us,” head coach Will Wade said. “When he’s in there we have different team. Our defense is different. Teams are starting to pull him away from the basket a little more on ball screens and that sort of thing. We need to do a better job hiding him and guarding ball screens better with him.”
“He’s a difference maker for us down there blocking shots. It’s not necessarily the shots he blocks, it’s shots that he alters and shots that teams have to pull up against us for that they would normally finish at the rim. He’s definitely a big-time presence down there. I’m glad he plays for us,” Wade said.
After a sluggish start in the first half with the score tied at 32-32 going into the locker room, the Mocs came out with a hot shooting streak from beyond the arc in the second half, and finished six-for-13.
“I thought we did well,” Wade said. “At the end, they drove us a little bit, but I thought defensively we were better. Part of the reason why we were better was because we didn’t turn the ball over as much. We only had four turnovers in the second half, so we didn’t put our defense in tough situations in transition maybe as much as we did in the first half where we turned it over 10 times.
“I think a little bit better offense, a little bit more patient offense, certainly helped us. Helps our defense out too,” Wade said.
The Mocs will now have to shift their focus to this Thursday, Feb. 19, where they will take on Mercer, who defeated UTC 75-72 in overtime in the last meeting.